New Forest 70.3

Just posted the pictures of the New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon! (click on the photo below or the Flickr photostream, right).

And the results are in. Finishing time 6h03 and 125th place. Swim + T1: 46min (132nd).  Bike: 3h10 (141st). T2 + Run: 2h06 (129th). Matt finished in a very creditable 6h25, especially considering his only previous tri was a sprint last year!

Overall I’m very happy with the result – I’d have taken 6hrs if offered to me beforehand. But, like most of us, I’m already looking at where I can considerably improve. If anything – on reflection – I took my running for granted, choosing to focus the middle part of this year (post-London Marathon) on cycling and swimming. Whilst this has definitely paid dividends, I dropped the ball on the second half of the run: my knee pain returned, and I just hadn’t done enough hilly long runs or brick sessions to cope with the ruthlessly difficult off-road run route in this tri. I know what I need to do for IM Switzerland! That said, this is a very tough 70.3 and having completed it in target time I’m confident in moving forward with winter training and 2010.

Half Iron 016A

Big thanks to the organisers, the marshalls and the venues. This is a fantastic event and is a must for any triathlete. 2010 races can be found here: http://www.racenewforest.co.uk/

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Chasing the dragon ride

Dragon Ride logo

The Dragon is the UK’s leading sportive, and it’s easy to see why. The Ride combines stunning scenery, long alpine-esque winding climbs, rolling roads and fast technical descents. The administration is impeccable, and the scale of the event – relative to other British rides – is something else.

Car parking congestion meant we were late starting. Matt and I teamed up with Mike – Jonny’s mate – letting Jonny and Will shoot off on a pretty hot pace. The route from Pencoed took us straight into the hills, and on to Bwlch mountain within the first 40k. Early on, finding groups to work with was tricky: not that – with over 3000 riders – we were short of people, but we found we caught and overtook each small bunch. As a result – and despite all three of us climbing really well – I was disappointed with the time at the first rest station at the top of Rhigos.

Matt dropped back on the descent from Rhigos, so Mike and I pressed on. I found the longer steadier climbing suited me far more than the severe 15% ers in the Chilterns, and we kept passing people with exhilerating frequency. By mid-race we also managed to get into some handy groups and picked up the pace on the long flat to rolling sections. Arguably the length of the ride could be shortened – something discussed during post-race debriefing – but personally I enjoyed getting more experience working with some good riders, and inparticular the Fred Baker Cycles team. If the route were shorter it would be fun to have a good go at the climbs; but on the other hand the overall challenge is in the testing length and thus it brings tactics to the fore.

We wound our way through beautiful valleys until Bwlch mountain reared up again for the return pass. Mike dropped me, but nobody else passed me as I settled into a rhythm until 100 miles ticked on my bike computer and I crossed the summit. Once over the top we soon realised that – with under 17 miles remaining – a sub-7h30 was on. The descent was very fast, and – bar one short climb – it was mostly flat to the finish. In the last 10 miles we really put the hammer down and this was probably the hardest part of the race.

If you keep up with my posts you’ll know my time! Here’s the route. And here are the photos.

Would I do this again? Yes, although I’d want to ride with a team to avoid spending more time looking for groups than actually working with them. There aren’t many rides in Britain that have long climbs like this, so it’s an ideal step on the road to an overseas sportive. It’s definitely one to get on your palmares!

Dragon Ride: the results are in

The provisional results have been posted. My time? 7.29.38, narrowly sneaking under the 7h30 mark. Jonny came in at an awesome 6h27, whilst Matt – in his first ever sportive – finished in 8h26. Full write up to follow soon.

Now for 10 days of hard-earned beach action on holiday before the build up to the New Forest 70.3 starts in earnest…..

Dragon Ride

Jonny, Matt and I will be tackling 120 miles in the Brecon Beacons this Sunday. Not sure I like the look of Bwlch2 at 160km in. At least the ‘heavy showers’ forecast from earlier in the week appears to have changed to ‘sunny intervals’.

www.dragonride.co.uk

Brecon Beacons 

Dragon Ride Route Profile

Sunny Surrey

I’ve made my first couple of ventures out of London for some cycling over the last week – and it feels great to be back two-wheeling in the sunshine. Catching the train from Waterloo to Epsom, I’ve broadly followed this route down to Rusper in Sussex, then across to Leith Hill and the North Downs, through the idyllic Ranmore Common and finishing with the Alpe D’Huez-like Box Hill bends and a downhill run-in back to Epsom.

Tuesday was a lone ride in windy conditions, whilst Saturday I was accompanied by Matt on his first countryside outing on his new Trek 1.7, basking in the gloriously warm bank holiday weather. The latter ride’s enjoyment was heightened by Jonny chasing us for the duration: he’d started early from Fulham, and called us from Betchworth whilst we were in Rusper. A track style pursuit followed, but I’m pleased to say we kept our distance up the road until he slid off to Cobham and we to Epsom! I added a 12-mile warm-down to Regents Park from Waterloo and around the North London hills on the way home – 75 miles all up at 16.5mph average.

Leith Hill from this direction is a terrifically enjoyable climb, made even more satisfying by the fast decent through Abinger Common. And I also particularly liked the narrow winding lane from West Horsley back into Effingham Forest, with flowing fields bathed in sunlight emerging around each bend through the tall trees and long shadows. 

There are tons of variations around the North Downs for more climbs or longer rides; see Al’s blog for our February/March rides. I’m also tempted to try the double-chevron climb from Cranleigh up into the hills towards Shere soon – my friend Ruth recounted a scream-inducing experience on a recent Forest Man training ride. A rival for Toys Hill?

Blackheath to The Mall: 26.2 miles around London

London Marathon

6.30am: Fairfield Grove, Charlton Village. My alarm goes off to signal that the day of the London Marathon has arrived. 99 days of training and a day of rest has preceded this day and – despite a few pre-race nerves (and two surreal race-day calamity strewn dreams) – I’m buzzing with excitement. Memories of gorging on two main courses at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich with friends the night before quickly comes back, and forcing down yet more food is – frankly – the last thing I want to do. But two bowls of Dorset muesli with water (not milk), two bananas, a Lucozade energy bar and several pints of water are gobbled before 6.45am. I ensure my pre-race meal is finished 3 hours before the start time and stop drinking 2 hours before.

8.20am: Blackheath station. The packed train arrives and scores of runners jostle and bounce their way up to the Blue start in Greenwich Park. Feeling relaxed.

9.15am: Greenwich Park. Where the hell are my gels?! A moment of blind panic as I scrabble around in my bag for three gels taped together. Are they on the bedroom floor in Simon and Reena’s flat where I’d stayed? Can I call them? Is there time?

9.17am: Greenwich Park. Thank heavens for that. I’ve found the gels hiding in my bag, and calm pre-race thoughts can resume.

9.42am: Blue start. I down a small bottle of mineral water to aid hydration. This fluid will be used by the body well before it passes through, alleviating the risk of an unwanted toilet break.

9.45am: Blue start. The horn sounds and the 2009 London Marathon is under way. I’m pretty close to the front so it only takes 1 minute to cross the start line. Notwithstanding, it’s still tricky to run free due to the volume of runners and my first mile is 8.04 – behind pace. From mile 2 congestion eases and I settle into a comfortable 7.15 tempo.

10.08am: Mile 3. The route drops down from Charlton Park to Woolwich and I clock a 6.57. This is too quick; I must keep the adrenalin in check! The saying ‘if it feels too quick, it’s too quick; if it feels about right, it’s still too quick’ comes to mind. But the problem is that months of training has got you to this point, this precise day when you’re in peak condition and it’s the hardest thing to move down a gear. Despite notions of a 7.40 pace, 7.15s feel comfortable, smooth and – well – about right! The mind plays tricks on you, constantly re-assessing splits against target pace and likely finishing times. I guess this is where the elites develop the ability to create and execute a firm race strategy without deviation.

10.21am: Mile 5. Friends Jon, Moray, Simon and Reena cheer me on. Today is warmer than expected and grabbing sips of water at most stations is crucial. London is very well organised in this regard: long tables on both sides; lots of volunteers; it’s very easy for the runners.

10.36am: Mile 7. The crowd support through Greenwich is incredible, especially by the landmark Cutty Sark. At mile 7 I see my family for the first time, sporting flags and banners and smiling faces. This is a real adrenalin rush. As mile 8 approaches I suddenly find myself on the shoulder of Gordon Ramsay! “Go on Gordon” I say, with a thumb up. “Go on son”, he responds.

11.19am: Tower Bridge. Amazing feeling crossing this monument of London; really lives up to expectation. I go through the half way point in 1.35.46, definitely under target pace. It gives me a good cushion, but will I pay in the second half? I always do this and really shouldn’t; maybe one of these days I’ll execute a negative split. I pull back as the Wharf looms and aim for just under 7.40s to reserve energy for the last 6 miles.

12.03pm: Canary Wharf. It’s getting tough now. Passed someone receiving oxygen in Narrow Street and also saw a guy veer off course and stagger into the crowd – dehydration is a risk, but my experience from 30-degree Stockholm 07 helps me balance fluids and carb intake. Isle of Dogs is probably the most demoralising part of the race, but the sight of my family at the Wharf gives me the boost I need to push for home. 1 hour to go.

London Marathon 200912.36pm: St Paul’s. Feeling better now. The crowd support through Lower Thames Street is brilliant and I can smell The Mall in the distance!

12.53pm: Embankment. Hanging on to 8s to 8.15s through gritted teeth. I’m still on for a PB, but it’s going to be close on a sub 3.20. Houses of Parliament remains just out of reach.

1.03pm: The Mall. The last 800m are cruel, and the way the finish hides out of sight around two corners compounds the pain.

1.06pm: The Finish. Marathon number five is over! 3.19.23. Sheer relief. And the beer in The Clarence on Whitehall tastes wonderful.

I narrowly beat Chris Boardman by 5 seconds on the line! And the sight of Nell McAndrew in lycra at the finish line makes it all worthwhile. What a day, what a race. Of my friends: Ewan came in at 2h55 – awesome; “no more fast marathons” he says, but we’ll see! Matt finished in 3h58 despite only six weeks’ proper training for his first marathon; very well done. He’ll be joining me in September for the half iron.

Now, how do I break 3h15 and tee up a shot at ‘Boston Qualifying’ ?!

 

Pace graphSplit times